Riverside Retreat paint colors & flooring

Stopping in for a quick (yet important) weekly update: We’ve chosen the paint colors & new flooring for the Riverside Retreat!

Whenever I begin a project, paint and flooring always come first. These are the foundation of every design—the rooms’ canvas, if you will. They’re decisions that have to be made before you can choose décor and accessories—and they’re perhaps the most important, which is why I’m thrilled to be past this hurdle so we can move full steam ahead!

As explained in the Before Tour, I knew right away that I wanted white walls and some shade of beige/taupe/mushroom for the trim and doors. After extensive research online, I narrowed my trim color samples down to the following (all Sherwin Williams);

And here they are, same order, in different lighting situations:

All so different, right? Promise me you’ll NEVER buy any paint without testing samples first. It has taken me years to finally convince myself of how necessary this step is, and if these photos don’t prove it, I’m not sure what will!

All of a sudden the clouds came out, and look how gray everything looks:

You’ve got to think of every paint color as a range of shades. There is no single ‘perfect color’—the swatch that you love on one wall in a room will look completely different just a few feet away in a shadow, or five hours later when the sun is at a different angle, or when a lamp is turned on. That’s why you need to get samples up on every wall and study them over the course of a day, with every possible combination of light. And from there, pick the one that works more often than the others. It’s a compromise.

With that said, I went back and forth on Loggia and Bungalow Beige for a while, until deciding with certainty that Loggia was the winner.

This was shot in the morning, at about the ‘beigest’ it looks. We’ll be painting all of the doors, door trim, windows and baseboards. Here it is next to the freshly painted windows (looking a little more gray in the late afternoon):

As for the walls, they were already white but a creamy-gray white, and since we were painting the trim, I wanted to brighten them up to get that nice crisp contrast. I chose SW Pure White, and you can see the difference here with the existing white in the center (see how much darker they are in the shadow on top?)

I’m not sure what the original color was, but it looks mighty close to this swatch of Alabaster:

Perhaps the most exciting news from the weekend—we’re getting all new flooring! We decided to go for it now and get it out of the way. The current tile floors aren’t in great shape—apart from the fact that they’re not even matching throughout the house. They’re loose, cracked, grout missing and uneven transitions which make them a tripping hazard. So relieved for them to be gone!

We decided on Pergo Brier Creek Oak and we’ll be working Lowe’s for the install:

You may recall that this is actually the flooring I had chosen for our last home (the one that caught fire) so I figured I’d go ahead and use it now. Not sure if I’ll use it again for our new build, but at least this way I’ll be able to test it out first! I have used Pergo in a similar color (now discontinued) in the Cottage House and loved it, so it was an easy choice this time around. I’ll be sharing a lot more about the selection & install process next month once they’re in!

Here’s a sample next to the new trim color—you should always take your floor color into consideration when choosing paint!

We’re laying the laminate in the whole house except for the bathroom. Unfortunately, the entire house is currently tiled and allllll of it (over 1600sf) will have to be removed before the floors can go down. We haven’t decided if we’re going to attempt to tackle it all ourselves or hire it out, but demo will begin this weekend. There’s a few dips and slanted floors in some of the rooms, so there’s also a decent chance we’ll need to repair some of the subfloor (hopefully not the floor joists). Follow along on my IG stories this weekend to watch the live demo action!

Within the next week we also plan to start adding crown molding in the living & dining room, along with some fancy molding accents on the dining room ceiling and a living room wall. There will also be a wall mural and painted ceiling involved—I haven’t done anything like this before so I’m looking forward to the results!

In other house updates: no word on the new build permit, and we’re still going through the eviction process.

And another update a few of you have been asking about—remember my Destination Design story?

Well, Janice got a little surprise of her own—her husband was sent home from deployment early! It was too short of notice to finish the house (which is currently in the middle of construction projects) but he still got quite the surprise when walked in the door, and now we can breathe a little and not try to force an impossible timeline. Ideally, I’d still return to finish this month, but the to-do list somehow keeps growing and I’m not sure we’ll be able to squeeze everything in within the next few weeks. I’m doing my best to keep the ball rolling and hope to be able to share the Afters with you soon!

Cheers to a productive August,


Our first eviction!

Another summer month gone, and here we are in August! Watch below for the latest on all three properties, including the wonderful details on our first eviction (yep… already!):

The video explains it all so this post will be brief, but here’s a recap:

1. The Heights House

This is old news if you follow me on Instagram, but the heights house is officially NO MORE!

I watched as it was demolished two weeks ago, and now the rubble has been cleared and we’ve got a clean lot to build on.

There’s just one problem: we STILL don’t have our build permit! Last week they dropped the bomb on us that we are required to add sidewalks and a driveway to the tune of an additional $12-13k—even though the rest of the neighborhood has no sidewalks.

After talking with our builder, architect and several folks at the permit office, we have “settled” on adding a sidewalk on just one side of the house, and paving a skirt for the driveway. This will still cost us several thousand dollars that we did not budget for. Insert sad face here.

Our architect had to modify and resubmit the plans, and we were told that this would be the last hurdle before approval (but we’ve heard that before). Going on six + weeks now since first submitting this thing, so hopefully we’ll be able to start building soon.

2. The Riverside Retreat

You saw our new bedroom last week, but the rest of the house still looks like this:

We haven’t really unpacked yet because this place is only temporary, we have no furniture to put things away in, and everything will just be constantly shuffled from room to room anyway as we start DIYing. There’s also a chance we’re replacing the floors sooner than later *fingers crossed* so we’re waiting to see what happens. For now, boxes are fine with us!

This weekend I want to get some paint samples up on the wall and start that process, so tune into my Instagram stories for live updates!

3. The Bungalow

We jumped right into the deep end of landlording with this one. When we inherited this property last month, we inherited the problems that came with it.

The biggest problem being one tenant (who shouldn’t have been approved to live there in the first place) who wasn’t paying rent and had a disconnected number. We tried calling and knocking on the door every day for several days with no response.

Left with no other choice, we posted a 3-day notice to pay or vacate on her door—sure enough, still no response.

I spent a day at the court filing the eviction papers and arranging for a sheriff to serve her the summons. Last Monday, the eviction was served and she had another week to respond. Did she? Of course not. So this past Tuesday we made another trip to the court to close the case, and now we’re waiting on a judge to sign off. Once that happens, the sheriff will deliver a Writ of Possession at which point she’ll have a couple days to leave (if she isn’t gone already), and the final step is for us to meet the sheriff at the property to change the locks.

This eviction is costing us thousands in unpaid rent, court fees, plus the repairs & cleaning required to get the property rent ready again. I’m a little nervous about what we’ll find when we walk in that door next week. The apartment wasn’t exactly in tip top shape when we viewed the property several months ago, so I have a feeling these repairs won’t be quick and easy.

Hopefully I’m wrong, we’ll see. These are unchartered waters for us, and we’re just doing our best to navigate them and stay afloat.

But these little challenges are good—they keep us on our feet, learning, and there’s never a dull moment around here! I wouldn’t have it any other way 😉

Hope your August is off to an exciting start! Next week I should have a paint update for you, and a fun DIY project as well!

 

 


Our New Summer Bedroom

It’s been two weeks since we moved into the Riverside Retreat, and while the house is still full of unpacked boxes, I took some time over the weekend to focus on the most important room in the house—our bedroom!

Our room was the only place of calm in our last apartment, and with this house about to undergo perpetual construction for the next several months, having a clean and cozy space to curl up in at the end of the day is necessary for my sanity!

We were able to transfer most things from our last bedroom into this new one, but with the increasingly hot Florida summer weather and old drafty windows, we needed to switch over our bedding to something lightweight. In perfect timing, The Company Store reached out to see if I wanted to try some of their linens (um, yes please!) and that prompted this little bedroom refresh & photoshoot.

I think the best way to find the right combination is to switch things out one at a time. Here’s the first ‘draft’ of our new bedroom…

I used the same bed, rug, night stands, lamps and duvet (those sources linked in the One Room Challenge Reveal post) and layered in lightweight Company Quilt and Shams (in buff). They’re pure cotton and even softer than they look.

Loving these textured earthy neutrals.

The windows are original and beautiful, but they are so not energy efficient and turn this bedroom into a greenhouse. I needed to solve that ASAP without spending a fortune. Roller blinds seemed to be the cheapest option, and I ordered fabric samples from a few different places, but it still ended up being over $200/shade for anything halfway decent. I was almost ready to settle for cheap vinyl, until I found these outdoor shades on Amazon for only $50.

BEST FIND EVER. I even highlighted them to my Instagram stories since so many of you were asking (please don’t buy them all, I need two more!) Mine are 6×6′ (they’re a few inches larger than the window, mounted on the outside) in Sesame. They’re woven and super durable (made for outdoor use) but look like they could be expensive indoor fabric. I’m adding these to my arsenal of interior design secrets (shhh).

Next I decided to swap out one of the nightstands for a desk.

Oh yeah, I’m liking this way better. The desk is vintage and the chair is from Home Pop (from our last bedroom). Lamp is also an old Wayfair find.

The curtains I searched high and low for—there’s not a lot of options for 9′ ceilings! I wanted something semi-sheer that had a linen look, and these from Amazon were the most affordable option out there. I’m actually pleasantly surprised with the quality. They’re thin, but the perfect amount of sheerness and a great faux linen texture. PSA: These cotton duck curtains are a great alternative if you want something less sheer, and they’re only $16/panel!

This has to be my favorite color palette for summer… whites, creams, warm wood tones and sage green. Yes please.

Time for another switch! Going all neutrals now with ivory euro shams and linen sheets…

Favorite look yet. I wasn’t sure about mixing so many shades of white/ivory/beige, but I’m sold! Although a pop of black for contrast never hurts…

Lesson learned: don’t be afraid to mix those light neutrals. Also, beige has officially surpassed gray as my favorite neutral.

The linen sheets are from The Company Store (in parchment) and I chose them after reading all the great reviews. Our bed tends to get hot with the mattress topper (I’m already a hot sleeper) and I’ve learned that linen is the best choice for summer bedding because it stays cool. It also feels luxurious and wears so well over time! PSA: the sheets are on sale ending tomorrow!

As soon as Susie discovered new bed linens, she found her spot and refused to leave.

I don’t blame her—in fact I’m curled up with her in that spot now as I type this. I’ve never treated myself to nice linens before and I feel so spoiled with these!

Another bedding tip? Get a larger sized quilt. We have a queen bed but I got a King so it would drape to the floor on both sides. This gives it that extra cozy ‘bedding store catalog’ look.

Alright guys, now it’s time to level up—green velvet has just entered the building.

Holy guacamole.

Confession: these are my first non-white curtains. How have I lived 33 years without green velvet?! It’s about time things change around here.

So rich, so elegant, so Scarlett O’Hara. SO IN LOVE.

I shared these on my Instagram stories a few days ago and have been bombarded with questions about them. Well folks, today is your lucky day. After weeks of trial and error, I can confidently say I found the best (affordable) custom green velvet curtains around.

I didn’t get it right on the first try. 9′ green velvet drapes that don’t look cheap AND are affordable are incredibly difficult to find. I searched for weeks, and settled for these on Amazon:

Big mistake. They were shiny and cheap looking.

I continued my search online without any luck, until finally stumbling upon a shop called Lushes Curtains that makes custom velvet panels at very reasonable prices. I ordered two 6′ x 9′ flocked velvet panels in green (rod pocket), and they were absolutely perfect. Here’s a side by side with the Amazon panel:

Doesn’t the matte velvet look so much more elegant? I think so.

I got mine unlined, but they’re still thick enough to block out most of the light. Combined with the roller shade, it’s just right. I paid $45 shipped per panel (after finding a 10% off coupon code online) but I just found a 15% coupon code: LC15. I’ll be using it to buy two more for panels the other window!

The sheer white curtains will be moved into the living room. These window treatments are the only things that will stay as is in this room—we’ve got some fun plans in store over the next several months! For now, I’m just gonna enjoy this little piece of luxury while it lasts.

Tell me, what’s your favorite look? Are you feeling the green velvet or do you prefer the light neutrals for summer?

We owe you all a vlog update on everything that’s been going on (things have been a bit crazy over here) so I’ll be back soon with more! In the meantime, stay up to date with the latest news on my Instagram & Facebook,


A chic retreat patio makeover

Recently I had an opportunity to do an outdoor makeover for a friend, and today is Reveal Day! Watch below to see the transformation:

When Article reached out to me a few months ago wanting to partner up, I had the perfect space in mind for an outdoor makeover. A friend of mine here in Tampa had a great screened in patio, but it needed some help:

Her current setup was a couple small tables and a grill, but she wanted to make the space more functional and inviting for guests.

Below you can see the covered entrance from her living room, which leads to the main open area.

Here it is from the outside, looking back at the house:

It’s on the smaller side, so we had to get creative with the layout to include multiple areas for lounging, dining and grilling.

Ready for the After?

Well, hello there! Is this a suburban Florida backyard or a swanky 5-star hotel lounge? I can’t tell.

Just when you think it can’t get any better—a pug, a frenchie and a bunny show up…

This basically turned into a cute animal photoshoot, but I don’t think anyone minds.

Okay, back to the makeover!

The very first step was deciding on furniture. It wasn’t an easy task narrowing down our options from Article’s outdoor selection. I’ve seen a few folks rave about the quality and ordering process, so I was looking forward to trying them out! We were immediately drawn to this dark and dramatic Urba sectional, and that became the centerpiece of the layout.

Because they’re on online-only store, they don’t have the high markup like other brands and they work directly with the manufacturers, offering a nice selection of curated pieces. I’m a big fan of their clean lined/Scandinavian inspired designs, because you can dress it up or down in any style you like (and it’ll last throughout the seasons!)

The sectional became the jumping off point for the design, which evolved into a lush tropical glam style with lots of natural wood tones, woven materials and mixed metals.

The matching acacia wood coffee table was used as well (btw, these are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use) and there was just enough room for two Arca lounge chairs to complete the conversational area. Isn’t the wood tone on these gorgeous?

We eliminated the white tabletop and left the black set as a casual dining area.

The old umbrella was replaced with this pretty fringe canopy, and cafe lights strung overhead.

We also hung 10′ long outdoor-safe curtains (we found these for only $9/panel! How is that possible?) The curtains make a huge difference in the space with added privacy, shade, and that breezy chic style.

One of the biggest changes was this custom built cedar plank grill surround and privacy wall.

It’s the perfect match of form and function. I love the wall of hanging plants, which she can change up over time (this would be a great spot for fresh herbs to pull from while grilling!)

The entryway was also spruced up with two Daisy lounge chairs and a cozy Home Goods rug (Buttercup the pug approves). We chose all of the furniture in this space with durability in mind, since it’ll be getting a ton of use from both family, friends and pets (and constant exposure to those Florida summer thunderstorms) So far, so good!

I sure wouldn’t mind entertaining here…

My favorite time to be outside is the golden hour, just before the sun sets.

When you’ve got that evening glow from the sky, string lights and candlelight…

Summertime is magic—don’t you agree?

I’ll leave you with the outtakes of the pup photoshoot:

Sources

Sectional: Urba Slate Gray

Coffee table: Urba

Two wood chairs: Arca

Two round chairs: Daisy lounge

Rug: Wayfair 7×10″

Curtains: Lowe’s

Patio table: Wayfair (old)

Patio umbrella: World Market (sold out, similar here)

Cafe lights: 125 ct, Amazon

Faux ivy wall: Amazon

Mudcloth pillow covers: Sew + Cloth, Etsy

Striped pillows: Annie Selke

Blankets, lanterns, planters, misc decor: Home Goods & Ross

Pssst… looking for outdoor entertaining ideas? I’m sharing my top 5 tips (and reliving past patio makeovers) on Simon Said!


The Bungalow is ours!

Nothing but good news this week!

As of today, we are all moved into the Riverside Retreat—and now the real work begins! I’ve been scheduling projects for us to tackle over the next month, so between those and unpacking and wedding planning (10 more weeks!) and Lucas working full time and traveling, our schedules are jam packed.

Oh, did I mention we FINALLY closed on our 5-unit Bungalow? It only took six months!

I’ve posted updates on this blog sporadically, but this saga has been so many months in the making, I don’t even remember all the details.

Long story short: we went under contract in late January, and the original escrow period was set for 45 days (typical for a commercial loan). There was some confusion/miscommunication from the seller’s broker and property management company, which caused the first extension. Then our bank dragged their feet, resulting in another extension. Days before we were set to close, our bank unexpectedly denied our financing and left us scrambling to line up a hard money lender. In our second attempt to close, the seller discovered he had a lien against his name and couldn’t sell any property until it was cleared. This delay turned out to be a blessing because we were able to find a small local bank to secure a commercial loan with great terms, but we ended up signing 2 more extensions and waiting over 2 more months for the seller to finally clear his lien.

And after all that, we have earned the title of landlords!

There were times where we didn’t think we’d ever make it to the closing table, but we are proof that patience and persistence pay off!

The Bungalow property is two buildings built in 1925 (one main house and one carriage house) split into 5 units (you can see the back unit peeking out from the right side of the photo below).

Don’t let the cute facade fool you, it needs some work.

At only 3400 square feet total, the units are quite small.

They’re a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms, and as basic as they come.

There have been updates like vinyl flooring, paint and a new roof over the years, but there’s some deferred maintenance we have to address right away.

Each has their own private yard, which is a nice bonus.

The biggest selling point for us was the location. The property is in the most desirable neighborhood of Tampa, in the best school district, with nearby development only increasing. There will never be a shortage of renters here.

We’ve had a lot of time to consider our strategy for this property, and have gone back and forth on what makes the most sense. Ultimately, we decided to keep the tenants in place (it’s fully rented with long term leases) and let it cash flow.

We’re going to focus our renovation efforts on the Riverside Retreat and our new construction home, so you won’t be hearing much about this Bungalow going forward.

It’ll be doing its thing in the background, generating some income, and slowly building equity over time.

I’ve rented out 3 of my 4 homes in the past, but have always used a property management company and was very hands off. This will be our first time as both landlords and property managers, so we’re hoping it goes as smoothly as it can! Either way, it’ll be a learning curve.

Let us know if you’d like us to talk about any specific part of being landlords or investing. We’re here to share our experiences!

Speaking of overdue updates… remember this house?

In just 48 hours, it’ll be gone. Our demolition permit was finally issued on Monday, and Demo Day is this Friday. I’ll be there watching and recording it live on Instagram, so make sure to tune then to see it go down! Another end to a story 6 months in the making—but the beginning of something much greater.

Things are finally starting to get exciting around here!

 


Destination Design: Part 1

A couple months ago, I received an email from someone that made me decide to jump on a plane to come help her. This is Part 1 of our story…

At 28 years old, Janice has endured more than anyone should have to in life. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with blood cancer and after surviving one round of chemo, the cancer returned and she had to move to Houston with her husband for months of intensive chemo and a stem cell transplant.

After her scans came back clear the second time around, she was able to move back home to Florida to begin her long road of recovery.

They decided to put down roots and buy their first home in Navarre, FL. Janice had always dreamed about having a beautiful home for her family, and after the setbacks of high medical expenses, she worked overtime and saved up every penny to hire an interior designer to bring her vision to life.

Janice’s husband is in the Air Force, and shortly after buying their home, they found out he was being deployed to Africa. They both agreed she could move forward with hiring the interior design firm and spend the next few months transforming the house—it would bring some much needed joy into her life, and something positive to focus on while he was away.

Sadly, the experience was anything but positive. The firm didn’t deliver on their design plan, they tried to charge her more than they had agreed upon, and after months of working with them and thousands of dollars gone, she was left with a half finished house.

Janice was devastated—she had just spent her life savings with nothing to show for it. She felt like she had let her husband down, and was embarrassed about what he would be coming home to.

In a last ditch effort, she reached out to me, explaining her situation and asking for help. I mean, how could I say no?

Her husband returns from deployment in mid August, and the goal is to have the home completed by then. That’s an entire 2000+ sq ft house to redesign in a matter of weeks.

For the past month we’ve been prepping as much as we can before my first visit. I reached out to a few sponsors who agreed to participate (thank you Schlage, eSalerugsGlobe ElectricGraham & Brown) and we’ve already begun ordering pieces to fill the home.

You’ll have to watch the video linked above to see what happened during the trip. I will say it was more of a challenge than I had anticipated, mostly because I really want to make these rooms special and complete. The problem is, good design takes a long time. It’s about collecting pieces that you fall in love with over the years, and waiting for that perfect vintage furniture or artwork that makes your home personalized and unique from the others. It’s not about thoughtlessly plucking everything from the pages of a catalog. I tend to obsess over every small detail when I’m designing a space, and the reality is there just isn’t time to spend one month searching for the perfect brass towel hook as I’d normally do.

I’m still trying to manage both of our expectations here given the timeline and budget restraints, but the next five weeks or so are going to be long hours and high stress—especially since I can’t be there to watch the progress and make sure everything’s moving along.

Here’s a quick house tour and summary of our plans:

Fortunately, not a lot needs to be done in the foyer. Janice has a wood/metal entry bench that we’ll use on the right wall, we need to fill those empty frames and find a nice runner. You can see we’ve tested a black swatch on the door—Janice wasn’t sure at first, but thankfully she has come around to painting her doors black!

The living room needs some attention. Janice ordered that couch from Restoration Hardware and she’s not a fan, so we’re looking for a new sectional to fill its shoes. We also need a large rug, and she wants to move the TV to the wall with the black botanical art.

Don’t mind the extra furniture pieces in there, those will be gone. We were able to score this gorgeous vintage marble & wood coffee table at a local antique store:

Janice will paint the wood portion a light warm gray to update the piece.

The ceiling fan will be replaced with a chandelier that’s currently in the dining room, and we need to replace the curtain rods with a wider set to hang the curtains further apart (they’re too close together!) We also picked up these inexpensive bamboo shades for all of the windows in the house to bring in texture and make them appear larger.

Something we’re most excited about is this antique fireplace we found on Craigslist for $100!

We plan to mount it on the wall where the TV currently sits, with some sort of tile surround on the inside, load it up with pillar candles, and add this stunning Anthro mirror above it:

The kitchen doesn’t really need anything, but Janice wants to personalize it so we’ll be replacing the nickel knobs with brass pulls, continue to look for a vintage wood & glass door for the pantry (no luck while I was there), and update the pendant lights with two of these beauties:

 

We’re going all out in the laundry room…

We decided on this show-stopping floral pattern from Graham & Brown:

We’ll cover all of the walls, and Janice’s contractor is going to install custom cabinets around the washer & dryer wall (still working on the cabinet color).

The dining room looks pretty good to me, but Janice isn’t feeling it.

I suggested swapping the chairs for something dark and upholstered to bring some contrast to all the light colors & wood, but she loves the chairs. We may bring in color through a rug instead, and we’ll add a large clock to the wall on the right. We’re also going to move that chandelier to the living room and bring in something sparkly.

I’m personally most excited about the guest bathroom.

Perhaps our best shopping score was this vintage dresser that will become the vanity (you already saw if you watch my Instagram stories):

Can you believe Janice talked them down to just $200 for this piece?!

The plan in here is to do a board & batten treatment on the lower 2/3 of the wall, with wallpaper on top. We’re still debating on which wallpaper and paint color combo…

Btw, the results of the Instagram poll was 31/69 in favor of the gray & green on the right. We’re both split evenly and still trying to make a decision! Honestly, we can’t go wrong either way.

The vanity will have a custom marble top made along with a wall mounted brass faucet set into a curved tall backsplash, like this

Can you see why I’m the most excited about this room? I really hope it comes together in time.

The master bedroom will receive a similar wall treatment behind the bed:

It’ll be painted a deep charcoal gray, and we’ve replaced one of the side tables with an antique wood desk at Janice’s request. We’ll also be adding a large rug, replacing the floor mirror, and beautifying the bedding.

The master bathroom will get an update as well, with the dark vanity repainted a soft white, brass hardware, new brass faucets, new mirrors and sconces:

In the first guest bedroom we’ve decided to try an experiment with lattice against the back wall.

I’m calling it an experiment because I haven’t been able to find any examples of this done how we’re envisioning it, but I think it will be such a unique touch!

We’ve also moved one of her existing wood dressers in to use as a night stand, and we’ll be bringing in a rug, adding a chandelier, along with new bedding and accessories.

For the second guest room, we found this gorgeous antique bed…

Such a steal. This room will also get an overhaul with a new rug, bedding, chandelier, accessories, and Janice will be painting a couple nightstands she has in storage to save on costs.

Lastly, we have the dogs room.

She wants their space to be playful and fun, so I suggested painting the walls with this gingham effect:

I’m also making two large personalized canvases of her dogs to go on the back wall, finding a rug to ground the space, and she’s looking for a tall glass storage cabinet to hold their toys/treats/etc.

If there’s time and room left in the budget, she wants to spruce up the front and/or back porch as well…

…though I’m trying to set realistic expectations as I’m already nervous about how much of the inside we’ll be able to wrap up in time. Rome wasn’t built in a day (or 5 weeks!)

I’m doing as much as I can from afar—scouring the internet for the perfect pieces, keeping track of our timeline and schedule in a spreadsheet and trying to stay on top of all these moving pieces. It’s almost like the Cottage House Flip all over again. But Janice needs me and I’m not about to let her down, so I’m giving her my very best until the end. I’ll be coming back for one last visit next month to put the finishes touches on the home before her husband arrives. We need all the good luck and positive vibes we can get!

In other news, we’re scheduled to FINALLY close on our 5-unit Bungalow tomorrow (I still won’t believe it until it happens), and we’re moving into the Riverside Retreat next week! I have several design & DIY projects coming up that I’ll be sharing over the next month. Finally after months of a dry spell, everything is happening all at once. When it rains, it really pours… just like these crazy Florida summer afternoon storms.

Back soon with more,


Before Tour: The Riverside Retreat

In just a couple weeks we’ll be saying goodbye to our little apartment and settling into our new house! As promised, here’s a complete pre-renovation House Tour before we swing the first hammer:

For those of you on Instagram, I’ve started up an IGTV channel and will be posting vertical format videos there as well!

Since I first stepped inside the house a few weeks ago, I’ve been collecting inspiration and trying to put together a game plan. We will be renovating it over the next 6-8 months (until our new house is ready to move into) so we have time to work out the details, but here’s the overall vibe:

I talked about this a couple weeks ago, but house will become an AirBnb once we move out, so I have to go bolder than usual with the design. I’ll be channeling a tropical, earthy, boho, mediterranean resort style with lots of deep greens, natural textures, wood tones and bold patterns. Did I mention we have a tiny budget for this? Almost everything will have to be DIY. Time to put our skills to the test!

Welcome to our new home, which we’ve named the Riverside Retreat:

It’s a 3/1, 1649 square feet built in 1948. It’s near the river (hence the name) and right down the street from the new house we’re building (a big reason we bought it).

Fortunately there’s a lot of pluses with this one—it’s in solid condition with a clean bill of health from the inspector, 9′ tall ceilings, and it has a new roof, AC and exterior paint. And these really cool original windows and shutters:

To help the curb appeal, we’ll be replacing the old metal railing with wood, get a new front door, and refinish the tile (probably stencil + sealing):

The front door opens up to a small living room. This is the photo that stopped me in my tracks:

THAT ARCHWAY THOUGH.

I’m keeping the walls white throughout the house, but painting the trim and doors in a light taupe shade.

I’m thinking we’ll cover this wall with dark chalkboard paint, put the TV on here and have some sort of fun welcome artwork/info for our future guests.

There’s room for a small seating area (including a dark green velvety couch) and sliding DIY doors on a track against the back wall to section off that bonus room (more on that room in a sec).

Beyond the beautiful archway is the dining room.

This space is perfect for a large round table with a statement chandelier in the center.

The ceiling will be a focal point in here, with a fancy trim border and either wallpaper or a stencil. Still sorting through options!

Off the dining room to the left is our kitchen:

Unfortunately there’s no way to take down walls to open it up, so we’ll just be working with the existing footprint.

It is a decent size though, perhaps even large enough for a small island in the center for additional workspace/seating.

In the right corner, there’s a door leading to a small laundry/utility space:

It’s tiny so there’s only so much we can do here. We’ll figure out a way to make it fun while maximizing the storage space.

And then there’s the backyard…

It’s a great size with a lot of potential. We haven’t come up with a great plan for this narrow strip of concrete though:

As of now, we’re leaning towards taking the jackhammer to it and creating a new (wider) fire pit area with pea gravel.

And that mismatched tile HAS TO GO. I just realized that this is the same tile used throughout the inside of house (it’s different in every room… sigh).

Once the old tile is removed, we’ll stencil & seal the concrete to give it a fancy patterned tile look.

On the right corner, we’ll build a pergola with string lights & vines, and set up a seating area. Eventually we may do the same for an outdoor dining area on the other side.

Back inside the house, we have the right wing which includes a hallway, two bedrooms and the bathroom.

This bathroom will be split into two, with the empty space on the left becoming part of a new master bath.

The layout of this bathroom will remain the same, but with a smaller vanity to allow room for the new master bath.

The tub/shower area will also get a complete overhaul, and I’ll likely do some sort of bold wallpaper in here.

Adjacent to this bathroom in the back of the house is our master bedroom.

In here we’ll relocate the closet next to the door, and in the far corner will be another door leading to the new master bath.

The vibe in here will be jungle resort style, with a canopy bed draped in gauze, deep green velvet curtains and a wood accent ceiling. I might be most excited about this room!

I’m picturing custom built-in floor to ceiling wardrobes painted in an earthy color, with some sort of trim detailing or perhaps glass doors? Haven’t thought it through yet. Suggestions?

Next up is Bedroom #2.

This is almost a replica of the master with the same windows and square footage, but we thought it’d be fun to build a swing bed in here!

Then we decided we should go with a ‘floating above the clouds’ vibe with some sort of blue/white mural or painted effect on the walls, perhaps birds stenciled onto the ceiling, fluffy sheepskin rugs…

Not sure how this one will evolve, but it’ll be a contrast to the rich and dramatic master.

Next up is Bedroom #3, off the dining room:

This one will be the most fun and youthful of the bunch, with two twin beds against a bold wallpaper backdrop.

Now for the very last space, and it’s a puzzler. On the far end of the living room is a bonus room that was previously a carport:

The long and narrow space with a wide staircase leading into it makes for an awkward layout.

One idea we’re leaning towards is creating a built-in bunk bed area and removing this closet:

This is a no brainer for an AirBnb so it can hold more guests. Below the bunk, we’re thinking of adding a couch and making this a lounge/game area. The door leads to the left side of the house which serves no purpose, so we may just wall it in. Perhaps we’d put a TV or projector down here instead of the living room?

On the opposite side of the room, I thought it could be fun to create a built-in reading nook:

Those are cement blocks in the center with a layer of plexiglass—what were they thinking? I’d love to add a window there if the budget allows.

What would you guys do? The more creative and unexpected, the better. We’d love to have an area for games and a long, narrow space could potentially work for that. Maybe a pool table? Ping pong? Board game tables? All ideas are welcome!

Alright, I think that’s enough information for one post! We’ve got a long(ish) road ahead of us, so we’ll have to pace ourselves. If you want to see all the ideas I’ve gathered for the house, check out my Bnb Pinterest board where I’ll continue to update frequently! You can also find daily updates over on Instagram and Facebook. And don’t forget to watch the full Before Tour on YouTube for a more complete look at the space.

More soon!


Favorite wallpapers, murals & stencils

Since the day I stepped foot inside of our new house (less than 2 weeks ago) my brain has been completely preoccupied (in the best way) with design inspiration and ideas. It’s still a little too early to make any concrete plans, and I’m forced to take it slow since we’re working with a very minimal budget, but that won’t stop a girl from planning ahead!

I mentioned in my last post that we intend to renovate this house over the next 6-8 months while our new home is being built, and then turn this house into an AirBnb once we move out. That means I’ll be taking a bit of a different approach with the design—it has to be eye-catching and fun, with interesting patterns and colors and features that make it feel more like an experience than just a place to crash. Our new build will have more of a classic and understated design, so this house is my chance to go bold and take risks!

In preparation for this big new undertaking, I’ve reorganized my Pinterest board and have been pinning like it’s my full-time job (have you been following me there?)

The world of online shopping really changed during my hiatus last year (for the better) and there’s so many new products and inspiration out there, it can be a little overwhelming. Today I want to break down one of the things I’m most excited to use this year… wall coverings! We’re talking wallpaper, wall murals and stencils.

The “theme” I’m going for with this AirBnb is a mix of tropical, mediterranean, jungle, nature. A bit like the Jungalow, if you will. Now that I’m in Florida, I’m learning to embrace a more tropical vibe, because who wants to stay in a mountain-themed cabin when they come to vacation at the Gulf of Mexico?

Anyway, this new house will have lots of wall coverings. I’ve spent the last week focusing my attention in this department, and I’ve come up with some very worthy candidates. There hasn’t been any winners chosen yet as I’m still in the preliminary design stages, but here are some of my favorites (by category):

Floral 

One of my all-time favorites, I’ve been in love since the moment I laid eyes on it. Spoiler alert: I’m using this in a clients laundry room coming up! Don’t worry, I’ll share more details soon. The best part about this paper is that it comes in several colors. I’m eyeing the shadow and sky for my own house…

I can’t get enough of watercolor + floral! Graham & Brown did it again with this beautiful design.

What is it about this black and floral combination? Gets me every time. I love the vintage and romantic feel of this one.

Here’s another watercolor design in the softest tones—and it comes in several colors. The best part might be the price point at just $0.54/sf.

I’m crushing hard on the monotone, hand drawn style of this one found on Wayfair. Available in three colors.

Here’s a neat idea… removable peel and stick wall decals you can reuse and position however you’d like!

So this isn’t the cheapest, but oh my. It’s one of the most stunning wall murals in existence and I’d say it’s worth it. Available in black and white, too!

Tropical

Palm leaf motifs are everywhere right now, and some pull it off better than others. Pattern repeat is HUGE and the first thing I look for when weeding through options. Seriously— never buy wallpaper without seeing an example of it on a wall first! This Alfresco Palm Leaf passes the pattern repeat test, and it’s at a reasonable price point at under $2/sf. It comes in blue and grayscale colorways, too!

Great price point, lovely tones, and it’s temporary which means easy install and safe for renters! What more could you want?

I love the extra large scale on this one—it looks more like a wall mural.

Obsessed with the dark and dramatic look of this wall mural. It comes in a white background too if you want to keep things light.

A gorgeous, ethereal wall mural if you prefer a more subtle approach.

An affordable option from Serena & Lily that’s also more subdued. One of my favorites and it comes in several colors, too!

Botanical

No surprise this one was designed by the talented Mrs. Gaines! It’s near the top of my list right now—I think it’d be perfect for a dining area.

Even Walmart’s getting in on the wallpaper action. I love the organic style of this paper, the price point, and the fact that it comes in several colors (though beige is my favorite!)

Another top favorite from Serena & Lily (man, these guys are good). Affordable, versatile, and it comes in three colorways. I’m leaning towards green but I love them all.

Isn’t this just the cutest? I’d use it in a laundry room, dining area/nook, mudroom, or study.

Such a fun and interesting yet subtle pattern—it looks even better once installed! Available in several colors and it’s on sale for less than $1/sf.

I love a good black and white wallpaper, and this one has some quirkiness with shimmery butterflies & dragonflies. In fact, I love it so much that I’m using it in of the bathrooms in this next house!

Hard to believe this one is only $0.57/sf! The detailing is gorgeous and looks super high end. It’s available in light gray as well, but the black is my favorite.

I’m just a little obsessed with this Botanical Sanctuary pattern. It’s on sale right now for just $0.61/sf and comes in several colors.

Patterned

I’ve made an executive decision to use wallpaper on the ceiling in the dining room, and this one’s at the top of my list. Normally I stay away from anything shiny on the walls, but those gold accents have me in a trance.

I’m all about this aged mosaic tile look and the gorgeous color palette. This would be perfect in a small powder bath, laundry area or foyer (comes in three colors).

This is from the same ‘Patina Vie’ line by York as the paper shown above, and it has the coolest pattern. Comes in many colors, and it looks amazing installed!

The perfect blend of organic and sophisticated. I’m in love.

This one comes in lots of colors at a great price point, and I love the global feel.

Another nice mix of geometric shapes with a global boho vibe. This one’s great if you’re looking for more of a subtle texture, and there’s plenty of colors to choose from.

Digging the asian vibe in this one, the dusty pink shade, and the interesting overall pattern it creates on the walls.

Whimsical

Tons of potential with this playful cloud design! Available in multiple colors.

So I’ve got a thing for clouds. This one gets bonus points because it’s temporary/peel and stick, reasonably priced, and looks more expensive than it is. I’d use it in a smaller area (like a powder room or accent wall).

On the pricey side, but sometimes you just need something specific. How cute would this be in a kids bathroom?

I can’t stop thinking about this one. Maybe because it’s not available in the US? Hey UK readers, today is your lucky day—it’s only £50.00 per roll! Anyone want to send me one? 😉 

Ugh, I want this wall mural in the worst way. At $5.50/sf, there’s no way I can afford it right now, but I’ll just stare at it longingly through my computer screen in the meantime…

Rebel Walls is the King/Queen of ridiculously amazing wall murals, and their Bellewood design is perhaps the all time greatest. I’m a little upset though because it’s too popular all over blogs and instagram which means I missed my chance to use it (gotta to be original, ya know?) If you aren’t a blogger who cares about that sort of thing, and you have a big budget, please get this mural (it comes in lots of colors!)

Stencils

What happens when you can’t find wallpaper in the colors you need or don’t feel like forking over hundreds of dollars to cover you wall? Stencils to the rescue! I’ve had some great results with these over the years, and now I’m in the process of narrowing down options for this new house. Here are some of my current favorites:

I couldn’t believe this was a stencil when I first saw it on Instagram! So good, right? Just think of all the possibilities when using multiple colors.

Since I can’t get that bird wallpaper mentioned a few photos back, I figure this stencil is the next best thing. Aside from the cost savings, I’ll be able to choose the colors and placement of the birds. I think this could be really cool on the dining room ceiling. Only $23, and comes in a smaller size too!

This pattern is so good and takes me back to our travels in Europe. I’m thinking about using this to stencil the floor of our front porch or backyard patio. Hmmm…

Love the pattern on this stencil. The style can be anything from tropical to glam, depending on the color(s) and sheen of paint you choose. This shop has a lot of nice designs!

I can’t go without mentioning the scallop lace stencil I used in the Cottage Laundry Room. Still one of my all time favorites. So chic and romantic.

Alright folks—this is just a small snippet of some of the inspiration I’ve been hoarding over the past week. Do you have any favorites? Or links to other wallpapers/stencils you love? I’m open to anything at this point, so leave a comment and show me what you’ve got!

There’s been some movement on our Bungalow property, so hopefully by next week I’ll have a big update for you! Follow me over on Instagram or Facebook to keep up with the latest news 🙂

 


We bought another house!

Well, sort of. Let us explain…

Last week I was browsing Zillow and stumbled upon a house for sale down the street from where our new home is being built. We had driven past this home before but never gave it a second glance because it’s on a busy road and not exactly eye catching.

However, the price was hard to ignore, and as soon as I pulled up the photos I had to call Lucas into the room…

Well hello there beautiful archway. If you know me well, you know my obsession for arches runs deep. Especially fancy ones like this. But of course, I’m not about to buy a house solely because of an archway, so we continued to do some digging. And we liked what we saw: a brand new roof and A/C, a large backyard, new paint, beautiful original windows, and tons of potential…

We ran the numbers and did a property evaluation, and it wasn’t a home run, but the home had been sitting on the market for months so we knew there was room for negotiation. At very the least, it was worth taking a look!

We called up the agent, who happened to be the owner of the property (a great thing) and met her there that afternoon. She and her husband purchased the property many years ago and own it outright. They are in the process of getting rid of all of their rentals, and they weren’t doing much to try and sell this place… it had just been sitting there vacant for months, as if it were an afterthought amongst their massive portfolio.

After leaving the house, Lucas and I both knew we had something here. There was just one small problem: WE HAVE NO MONEY TO BUY IT. Every dollar we’ve saved is allocated towards building our new home. So… how can we possibly get this place? Time to get creative.

This is where months of reading, listening, and studying real estate pay off. As soon as our new house is built, we’ll be able to refinance and pull out a ton of equity (a lot more than we put into it)—but that won’t happen until maybe January or February 2019. So we’re out of luck until then, right?

Enter the lease option agreement. We sign a contract up front agreeing to lease (rent) the property for a period of time, and then we’ll have the option to purchase it at a pre-negotiated price. A lease purchase works the same way, except you are committing to purchase rather than simply having the option. We initially proposed a lease purchase agreement, but that leaves the seller at risk of foreclosure so they opted for the lease option instead.

Either way, we are 100% committing to the purchase at the end of our lease since we plan to renovate the property while we’re living in it. This is the most exciting part of the whole deal… we’ll finally be able to start working on projects again! We can take our time and slowly renovate over the next 6-8 months while our new home is being built, and the current owners are cool with it.

Since our budget is so limited, this means a ton of DIY. I’ll admit, last year I was burned out after years of constant DIY and didn’t think I’d ever want to jump back into it. But this new house has reignited the flame and I am so ready to get my hands dirty. It also helps to have a partner who is even more excited and on board with all of my crazy ideas.

The plan is to renovate the home while we’re living in it and turn it into an AirBnb as soon as we move into our new house. This requires a different strategy than renovating it to flip or to use as a long term rental—we get to be creative and over the top, which is music to my ears after this long design drought!

This came at the perfect time, because our apartment lease is up next month (no more termites!) and we would have had to sign another year lease (no thank you). Now we get to move in and start tackling projects right away. Perhaps the biggest benefit is the homes location—we can walk to our new house and check on the build progress! After spending several months commuting 3.5 hours each way (twice a week) to the Cottage House Flip, I learned that location is the most important factor. It’ll also make managing it as an AirBnb rental so much easier. Convenience is everything, and time is money! And speaking of money—even with all the inherent benefits of this house, the numbers still had to work as an investment property. We were able to talk them down 22% off their asking price, which is pretty rare in this market.

Finding this house feels like the missing piece to our puzzle. We’ve been struggling these past couple months—stuck in limbo with no control over the stalled progress of our two properties, facing another year in this cramped apartment, and no glimmer of light at the end of our tunnel. Now it feels like we’re entering a new chapter, one where we finally have some control and can put in the work.

On that subject—we’ve been in Tampa for five months now, which has given us enough time to settle in, learn the market, and get a sense of the time commitment and daily operations DreamStone Homes. We’ve decided that now is the right time for Lucas to get back into his sales career, while I help with project management and focus on my interior design business (which has been growing!) Real estate will always be a priority and we’re doing everything we can to make it grow, but with our situation, it just isn’t a full time commitment (especially with two of us).

There’s much less uncertainty in our lives now, and we finally have a game plan we feel good about. Of course, we’re no strangers to the fact that we can only control so much, and life has a way of shaking things up every now and then. We’re just along for the ride 🙂

I have so many ideas to transform this house, and I can’t wait to document them here! We’ll be moving in mid July, but I’ll be sharing a full “Before Tour” + video with all the details shortly. There’s so many decisions that need to be made with this place, and we’ll need your help!

Can we start with this situation in the backyard? We can’t figure out the intended purpose. It’s too small for a seating area (and there’s already a large seating area to the right). We’re thinking maybe filling it with sand and setting up horseshoes? A big slip ‘n slide? Mini putt course? Bowling? We want it to serve some sort of game/entertainment purpose. Let’s hear your (budget-friendly) ideas!

PS: As of today, there’s finally been major progress on the other two properties! Updates on those soon…


DreamStone Update

I feel like it has been way too long since we’ve had a good heart to heart.

Two weeks ago, we gave a vlog update if you missed it:

But in our unpredictable world, a lot changes in two weeks!

We’ve been living here for five months, and life sure doesn’t look the way we thought it would by now. There have been many difficult moments. A lot of sleepless nights. But we’ve been learning to take it all in stride and roll with the punches, focusing on our goals and pushing forward.

Let’s get right to the latest news…

The Heights House:

Nearly three months ago it caught on fire, and it has been sitting vacant ever since. We spent the first month or so working with insurance, which (surprise!) was an easier process than we expected. We came to a fair agreement and they’ve already given us a portion of the settlement. We’re waiting on the rest (they definitely take their time) but it seems like the rest should go smoothly (famous last words, right?).

After insurance was worked out, we had a big decision to make: repair or build new? We ran through each scenario and crunched the numbers, and ultimately decided that it makes more sense to demolish the existing home and build new.

I can’t explain the level of excitement around this new house—I never thought I’d be sitting down with an architect, designing my own home—I’ve dreamed about this for years and it’s actually coming true. Well, sort of. Insurance won’t cover a brand new house, of course, so we’ve had to curb our expectations and make some sacrifices. We’re pinching pennies and saving every dollar to make this happen (all while saving for our wedding in September!)

Beyond just wanting to build our dream home, it’s a strategic investment because the neighborhood will more than support the new value (this is why it’s a good idea to buy the worst house in the best neighborhood). We should end up getting a 200-250% return on our money after it’s all said and done. I’ll talk more details about how this all works in a future post.

Our drawings are supposed to be finalized with the architect in the next week, and I can’t WAIT to show you as soon as we get them back. For now, visualize with me for a moment—it all started with this charming Tudor inspiration:

Which we ended up merging with this classic French country style:

 

You guys, it’s going to be amazing. Stay tuned.

The 5 Unit Bungalow:

Talk about testing our patience… we found this house back in December, before we moved to Florida. Right after landing, we put in an offer and went under contract. It has now been five months, and we just found out last week that the contract has been pushed back another 30 days!

This deal has been a headache from the start. It took weeks for the listing agent to even show us the units after we already had a signed contract, which pushed back the original 45 day escrow. We had a bank lined up and were assured that everything would be approved and cleared in time. Several more weeks went by as the seller found more reasons to delay the closing, and in April we were finally ready to close! The week before we planned to sign the papers, we received an email from the bank stating our loan was denied. Panicked and confused, we spent the next week trying to figure out a solution and even lining up a hard money lender as a last resort. Long story short, we will never trust or work with a large national bank on investment deals again.

Just when we thought the deal was going to fall apart and we had wasted months and thousands of dollars, the title company informed us that they couldn’t clear the title because there was a lien against the seller (on another property he owned). They asked for another 30 day extension, which we gladly accepted, because it meant we had time to find another bank!

This time we looked for the smallest local bank we could find, and found one with just one branch. A couple days later we sat down with the president, showed him the numbers and told him our story, and two days later we were approved—just like that. It was our proudest moment yet.

With three weeks left until closing, we made all the preparations to begin our new role of becoming landlords, and couldn’t wait to finally get started.

But of course, another setback. A couple weeks ago we found out that the lien still hasn’t been taken care of, and they needed to extend the contract another 30 days. Apparently there are several parties involved (including the court system and the city office) and they aren’t sure how long it’s going to take.

So here we are, five months later, still patiently waiting. Our original plan was to renovate some of the units right away but that is no longer in the cards—at least not for this year, as we need to save our money for the new build. We’re just hoping we’ll actually close on this place in 2018.

So that’s what we’ve been dealing with lately. On one hand it’s incredibly exciting and liberating knowing that we’re in control and building this business while designing the life we want to live. But it’s also scary because our future is riding on every decision, and the responsibility falls entirely on us. If we fail, there’s no hiding and there’s no backup plan. We must pick up the pieces and move forward—and that’s what we’ve been trying to do over these past couple months.

We took a leap of faith by moving across the country, and there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by without uncertainty. Real estate investing is not for the fainthearted, and you can’t be afraid to take risks—especially to be successful in today’s ultra competitive market. Fortunately, Lucas and I love a good challenge and don’t like to play it safe. Screw comfort zones.

We’ve learned how quickly things can change in an instant. One moment you’re drifting off to sleep, and the next you’re standing in front of your house engulfed in flames. One week you are preparing to close on your first investment property, the next you’re denied by the bank with no backup plan. One month you spend rethinking your entire investment and life strategy, and suddenly a house comes on the market that changes everything.

^Yep, another major turn of events yesterday. We found an opportunity that may be a game changer, and would completely turn this next year around for us. You may have caught some of it on my instagram stories, but we’re less than 24 hours into it now and things are happening rapidly. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop—follow me on Insta for the latest updates!

This rollercoaster of ups and downs is just getting started, and we have no plans to get off. We appreciate your patience through the bumpy start, and we’re incredibly thankful to have you on this ride with us!